Postcard of St John’s Gardens, early 1900s
Postcard of the Police Band in St John’s Gardens, 1935
Military tents occupying the gardens during the Liverpool Police Strike
12th August 1919
Naturally a plateau of open heath, the development of the area began in the
form of windmills, lime kilns and markets. The names of several of the adjacent
streets such as Lime Street and Old Haymarket derived from these early uses.
During the mid 18th Century Liverpool began its first phase of rapid urban
expansion. In 1767 the area of the garden was enclosed as a general burial
ground with a small mortuary Chapel. It was in 1775 that the first stones
were laid for St John’s Church which was designed in the gothic style
by the architect Thomas Litoller. Construction of the Church was completed
in 1784. In 1854 work began on St George’s Hall, designed in Neo-classical
style by Harvey Lonsdale Elmes, winner of the architectural competition for
St John’s Church had been located hard against the West elevation of
St George’s Hall and was a factor in the more simple design form of
this side of the Hall, with its lack of a portico. Soon after the work commenced
on St George’s Hall, developments began which led to the demolition
of St John’s Church and later to the laying out of St John’s Garden.
In 1865 the churchyard was closed for burials, and then in 1880 Liverpool
was established as a separate diocese from Chester and a Cathedral was planned
to the West of St George’s Hall on the site of St John’s Church.
It was decided that the Anglican Cathedral should be located at St James’
Mount to dominate the Hope Street skyline, avoiding a clash in styles between
the two major buildings and providing a great civic space more fully revealing
the Western elevation of St George’s Hall. In 1897 under the Liverpool
Churches Act St John’s was closed. The Garden is claimed to have been
designed initially by the sculptor, George Frampton, as a setting for existing
and proposed pieces of public sculpture reflecting the City’s new found
economic, political and cultural status.
Frampton reputedly submitted a detailed plaster model to the Corporation Surveyor,
Thomas Shelmerdine. Shelmerdine was supportive of Frampton’s proposals
and adopted the layout in his neo-baroque design. Frampton’s masterplan
was thought to have been for an Italian garden, and although not completely
carried out, it contributed towards providing Liverpool with a magnificent
sculpture garden which is recognised as one of the major groups of outdoor
public monuments of the early twentieth century.
The statues in the Garden, which was opened on 20th June 1904, were produced
by some of the most famous names in Victorian sculpture such as Frampton,
Sir Thomas Brock and Pomeroy. The monuments with the Garden and the gate piers
and terrace wall are listed reflecting their national historic and architectural
The park today
One of the city’s few city centre green spaces, the Garden is the site
of the most prestigious collection of listed statuary in the city. These monuments
and memorials present a fascinating indication of the city’s heritage
and development and provide an appealing attraction amid the lawns, bedding
and specimen plantings of the Garden.
The Garden lies at the heart of the arts and culture quarter in the city centre
and an attractive component of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site where
the open space contributes to a sense of civic pride amplified by the auspicious
architectural backdrop of St George’s Hall and the city’s Museum,
Central Library and Walker Art Gallery.